Tuesday, February 27, 2007

March 2007 - American, British, and European miniatures

March marks the addition of an interesting group of miniatures. Two American, two British, and one Swiss.

Four of them are shown in a single image, so the relative size of the largest one can be seen. This one has a sight size of 150 mm x 110 mm, but even so it is not the largest miniature on ivory in the overall collection, as the very largest one is 210 mm x 150 mm.

Starting with the large one, it is an American miniature of Margaret Ann Prall Campbell painted by Isabelle Victoria Hayward in 1894. The frame is stamped Tiffany & Co. For more about this portrait see Hayward, Isabelle Victoria - portrait of Margaret ...

The other one of a lady in a white dress is also American. This 1910 self-portrait was painted as a gift to her husband by Margaret Burnham Kelly, a daughter of the famous American architect, Daniel Hudson Burnham. Daniel Hudson Burnham designed, amongst other famous buildings, the Flatiron Building in New York.

For more about Margaret and her father see Burnham, Margaret - portrait of herself

Self-portraits are regarded as particularly special and this one by Margaret Burnham Kelly brings the total of miniature self-portraits by American female artists in the collection to four. The other three being by Meriva Carpenter, Lillian Rubena Deane, and Katharine Payne Starr.

There are two enamel portraits added this month. Enamel portraits are relatively rare because of the demanding technique and thus only represent between one and two percent of all the miniatures in the collection.

One is of Queen Victoria wearing the George IV Diadem Crown, probably based upon a photo taken around 1880. The pose is similar to portraits made to mark the 1887 Golden and 1897 Diamond Jubilees, but the Queen is much younger in this portrait.

The enamel is unsigned and for more about it see Unknown - portrait of Queen Victoria

The other enamel is an important miniature painted by Johann Heinrich Hurter and dated 1788. The sitter is Professor Jean-Nicolas-Sebastien Allamand who was a well known naturalist of the 18C. Interestingly, Hurter married Allamand's widow shortly after the portrait was painted. There must be few other examples in existence of a painter painting a portrait of his wife's former husband!

Allamand was a Fellow of the Royal Society and friendly with Benjamin Franklin through a common interest in electrical experiments. As a result of watching Frankin's experiment of pouring oil on water to calm the effect of waves, Allamand pushed for the widespread knowledge and adoption of this as a safety technique for ships when faced with dangerous seas. This is the origin of the phrase "pouring oil on troubled waters". For more about this portrait see Hurter, Johann Heinrich - portrait of I N S Allama...

The fifth miniature has been attributed to Thomas Hargreaves and looks very ordinary compared with the other four. The sitter was unresearched when purchased for the collection, but some very interesting research has revealed that she is Esther Watson Tobin, the wife of Thomas Tobin, a member of one of the major English slave trading families of the 18C and early 19C. For more about this see Hargreaves, Thomas - portrait of Esther Watson Tob... where there is also an essay on the Slave Trade.

In fact researching Esther Tobin and writing the essay has taken more time and been more interesting than researching all of the other four miniatures put together. This shows that apparently less attractive miniatures are very worthwhile collecting, if one is prepared to put effort into research.

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